The Harvard team visited this year’s festival of digital thinking, Digital Shoreditch, last week and there was one topic on people’s minds: the Internet of Things. Lots of the talks and panel discussions considered its implications for where technology goes next.

This probably shouldn’t surprise us. As Dickon Ross, editor of E&T magazine, pointed out to us in one of the panel sessions dedicated to the topic, the IoT is now at the top of the Gartner hype cycle (image below).


But there was little doubt that the IoT has transformational potential. The main challenge is to understand where that potential might lead us. At the moment we only have the roll-out of the web as a model to compare it to. But Dickon Ross argued that the IoT will be bigger than anything we’ve seen in the past 20 years, and will make the next 10 years unrecognisable…

That’s quite a claim and should be tempered with a dose of reality. In one talk Jon Hook from mobile agency Phunware pointed out that a third of London boroughs provide broadband slower than 25Mbps – so how on earth will they cope with the infrastructure demands of the IoT?

One IBM representative admitted that “we’re in the Wild West stage of the IoT”, similar to where the web was in the 1990s. We’re lacking some basic infrastructure to get the IoT’s exciting concepts off the ground; standards are only just beginning to emerge; and there’s no easy way for average punters to use it yet.

However, we were shown Thingful, an early-stage search engine for internet-connected objects, and Thingworx, a platform to help companies build IoT applications.

So if there’s one message we took from Digital Shoreditch this year, it’s that the IoT is definitely still in its early stages, but the building blocks are starting to be put into place…

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